red lights

Skeletons On Skateboards


AFI - Sing the Sorrow
(Dreamworks Records)
2 1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: May 17, 2003

Review by Tony Bonyata

Their album art may be filled with images of bats and tribal illustrations, while lead vocalist Davey Havok dons blood red lipstick, mascara and a pasty pale complexion, but despite all of their attempts at cloaking themselves with the nocturnal underworldliness of goth rock, the California-based quartet AFI (A Fire Inside) still comes off more like a bunch of Orange County skate punks than Bela Lugosi with a Telecaster.
Despite landing Madison, WI resident Butch Vig as co-producer for their latest full-length offering Sing The Sorrow, his studio touch, which graced such rock luminaries such as Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins and Sonic Youth in their heydays, seems lost in the tattooed, West Coast skate park malaise.
The album starts off with the dark, brooding intro of "Miseria Cantare - The Beginning," but the sounds of things that go bump in the night soon turn to operatic punk pop with chanting witchburning harmonies that continues through much of the album. Shadowy interludes are mysteriously cast throughout many of the fast and furious numbers, adding interesting textures at times, but little else.
Songs such as high energy kiddie punk of "Dancing Through Sunday," filled with unapologetic guitar solos and fist-pumping choruses, as well as the introspective heavy pop of "Silver and Gold" are sure to hit home for the junior high sect sneaking smokes during study hall, but will surely be lost on those into the dirty sounds of garage, old-school punk or real goth rock.
There are moments of hope here, though, as proved on the poignant balladry of "The Leaving Song," which thankfully has checked any obligatory power chords at the door, as well as the reckless abandon of "Death of Seasons," which blends speed punk, threatening vocals and even a bit of industrial clangor into interesting results. Unfortunately, however, these moments are just too far and few between.

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